Health, education, the economy were all rudely shoved aside at last week’s political forums as the crowd took centre stage hurling insults at the candidates and each other.
While candidates shared their respective views on the biggest issues of the day, the crowd watching the St. Albert event stole the show, for all the wrong reasons.
Politics by its very nature can be polarizing with temperatures often rising during an election. At times tempers flare and things can get downright nasty with taunts and name-calling, but surely not in here. Not in this community. Well, at least not in a provincial election. We usually reserve that kind of behaviour for our municipal elections — until last week. Until then, St. Albert was a relatively tame place for provincial politicians. Little political blood was ever spilled.
But last Wednesday night, the provincial election brought out the worst in St. Albert. Or perhaps the event brought the worst out to St. Albert.
Incumbent candidate St. Albert NDP MLA Marie Renaud faced off against UCP candidate Angela Wood and while the two did political battle on stage, the crowd shouted insults at the debaters, leaving long-time local political watchers shocked and appalled.
Spectators shouted at the candidates, drowning out their answers to questions, with some shouting “Lies!” at the politicians. Crowd members faced off against each other, shouting at each other to keep quiet and eventually the moderator had to step in and threaten to remove rowdy crowd members.
Many in attendance said they had never seen such deplorable behaviour come out of a local forum and St. Albert has seen hotly contested municipal races play out with residents showing more respect for the local candidates.
It is hard to know if the guilty parties were local residents or party supporters who washed into town to cause a ruckus, but nonetheless, the bubble of respectful political discourse was popped and St. Albert’s reputation was stained by the deplorable, Trumpian-style behaviour.
During the Morinville-St. Albert riding forum in Morinville the following night, supporters started to get rowdy heckling the speakers and lobbing vitriol at UCP incumbent candidate Dale Nally and NDP challenger Karen Shaw. The moderators, likely aware of what took place the night before in St. Albert, stepped in quickly and the temperature in the room soon cooled down.
St. Albertans deserve to know what their candidates think and judge them on that merit before casting a ballot. A respectful exchange of ideas is a hallmark of progress and democracy, not the gutter tactics we witnessed last week. Those incapable of respectfully participating in the democratic process should do the rest of us a favour and just stay home.